The community had gathered. We had heard a sacred reading. The bell was struck. A gentle silence descended on us. Then, on the other side of the wall, in the parking lot a frustrated mother began yelling at her child, “I didn’t drive all this way for you to refuse to go to camp!’. The yelling continued, accompanied by a child’s mournful cry. Beneath our feet the piano began, joined by happy voices of children singing camp songs. One after another their songs rolled along. The final straw were The Squeaky Shoes, rubber soles on linoleum, that sauntered down the hall outside the chapel. Really! So what was that sacred text???
That particular morning highlighted for me the delight of meditation. We (or is it just me!) have this image of sitting in stillness, all is serene. Maybe a few birds chirp or a gentle waterfall is a soothing white noise. Within a pristine setting perhaps I will settle into a place of inner peace.
But usually as soon as I settle on my cushion, I’m aware of the flopping of my mind, or emotions that get triggered. Again and again, as Fr Keating taught, I get hooked by some ‘boat’ that has entered the river of my thoughts and I’m engaged in sorting out all the stuff on the boat. Whether my physical space is serene or not, my internal space seldom is very orderly.
That morning, with all the yelling, singing and squeaking, gave me time to reflect again on how to deal with distractions when I meditate. They will happen! It might be internal thoughts that engage me or the squeaky shoes outside the room. I know they will come, so how can I let them not trigger an annoyance or sense of failure, but become one of the delights of meditation?
I know as my practice deepens the external sounds move more easily into something ‘out there’ and cease to trigger the cords of annoyance within me. They can still cause me to feel disruption. I look for the day when I’m oblivious to them. I’m not there yet. I’m not able to walk on hot coals! But I can breathe and let them pass. The internal roommate that chatters is more of a distraction to me. But the good part is that I can recognize when I’ve climbed on board and jump overboard one more time.
The real delight of distractions in meditation for me is the growing awareness that those distractions help me bring the quiet centre of my practice into everyday life. When I’m standing in line at the grocery store or caught in traffic I can pause and breathe and return to being open to God’s Spirit right then, right there because I’ve done it in my practice when The Squeaky Shoes walked down the hall. Or when someone gets annoyed at me or I feel irritated towards someone, or jealous of who they are, I can pause and breathe and return to being open to God’s Spirit right then because that’s what I’ve done in my meditation practice when The Squeaky Shoes were the last straw for me. Again, and again, pause, breathe and return my focus to God’s Spirit within me. I am a branch of God’s vine. I carry God’s Life-giving, Ever-Loving, Healing Sap within me. I belong to God. That is who I am.
Distractions! How do you deal with them in life and /or on the cushion???
Love and prayers for the journey
Mystic in Motion
Contemplative Fire Founder (Canada)